Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Sleep? Causes and Tips for Immediate Relief

After a hectic day, you want nothing more than to climb into your cozy warm bed and sleep undisturbed. If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, a good night’s sleep seems like a faraway dream but it is possible to relieve the pain and find comfort. 

Shoulder pain from sleeping can occur from a myriad of reasons with the most common being; osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis), rotator cuff strain (tendon injury), bursitis (Bursae inflammation) or sleeping on the injury that puts additional strain on the muscles. Inflammation tends to be the root cause of shoulder pain at night. 

Changing your sleep position, putting a pillow between your knees in bed, and gentle exercise can greatly improve your quality of sleep health. We’ll explain here what shoulder pain is and how to lessen your symptoms so you can sleep well at night.  

A common cause of shoulder pain at night is the result of rotator cuff inflammation

What Causes Shoulder Pain at Night?

  • Muscle Tears: the tendons, muscles, or labrum can tear hindering stability and motion in the joints  

  • Poor Sleeping Posture: sleeping with your spine misaligned or head not supported on an adequate pillow

  • Overexertion: shoulder muscles have been overstretched or worked too hard

  • Repetitive Injuries: continuous tendon strain on a mild injury that becomes worse over time due to lack of rest or treatment

  • Age: Those over 40 are most at risk of suffering shoulder pain at night 
  • Sleeping on the Wrong Kind of Mattress: sleeping on an unsupportive mattress that does not provide adequate pressure relief

Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Sleep?

A common cause of shoulder pain at night is the result of rotator cuff inflammation. This can be brought on by sudden injury or repetitive strain injury to the shoulder tendons. Try sleeping on your opposite side and limiting the use of the injured arm for as long as possible to allow healing.     

Helpful Tips to Prevent Shoulder Pain from Sleeping 

If you’re dealing with night time shoulder pain you could find relief in these tips and sleep better tonight. 

  • Put a pillow between your knees if you’re a side sleeper or under your knees, if you’re a back sleeper
  • Find a better sleep position if you’re unable to get comfortable at night or wake with aches and pains in the morning, don’t sleep on the affected shoulder
  • Consider upgrading your mattress to one that provides more pressure relief 
  • Limit the use of your affected arm, the less pressure on it during the day could bring some nighttime relief, use an arm sling for a few days if needed and don’t sleep on your arm if you’re a stomach sleeper   

Shoulder Pain From Sleeping on Side

Sleeping on your side is widely accepted as the most comfortable and beneficial sleep position, especially if sleeping on your left side as this aids healthy digestion, eases acid reflux, and snoring. Side sleeper shoulder pain is most common in those who are sleeping on an inadequate mattress that does not offer any pressure relief – especially memory foam mattresses are known to cause hip and shoulder pain for those sleeping on their side. 

Consider a softer mattress that will allow your shoulders and hips to pleasantly sink

If your mattress is too hard, consider a softer mattress that will allow your shoulders and hips to pleasantly sink. A firm mattress can put pressure on your shoulders and hips, aggravating any injury further. If you’re a side sleeper, try these tips to sleep more comfortably.  

How to stop my shoulders from hurting at night.

  1. Sleep on your opposite side.
  2. Put a pillow between your knees to align the hips.
  3. Ensure your head is on a supportive pillow and the spine is aligned. 
  4. Sleep on a soft and supportive mattress that provides pressure relief.   

What Is the Best Mattress for Shoulder Pain?

The best mattress for shoulder pain is soft and made of a modern material that is proven to offer superior pressure relief. The sensitive hip and shoulder areas need a plush mattress to sink into but also require adequate support so as not to put undue pressure on these areas. However, are there alternatives?

  • Memory Foam vs. Spring Mattresses for Shoulder Pain: a memory foam mattress is typically viewed as a softer alternative to a spring mattress. Although the memory foam firmness will depend on the density of the foam and can range from super soft to very firm. Spring mattress firmness depends on the gauge of the coils, lower gauge coils will result in a firmer spring mattress  

  • Firm vs. Soft Mattresses for Shoulder Pain: a firm mattress is ill-advised when managing shoulder pain. Opt for a more responsive and supportive material that feels soft but brings pressure relief to your sensitive hip and shoulder areas. A firm mattress could worsen shoulder injury and prolong recovery 

  • AirFoam™ vs. Memory Foam Mattresses for Shoulder Pain: Most memory foam mattresses will not be ideal for someone who is suffering from shoulder pain. Memory foam contains viscoelastic chemicals that cause the memory foam to sleep hot. This unsupportive reaction causes ‘sinkage’ where the body sinks into a crater-like hole in the mattress. AirFoam™ mattresses are made of innovative and modern material that offers superior pressure relief that memory can’t live up to. The best mattress for shoulder pain will be soft yet supportive, especially in the hip and shoulder areas  

There is help available to alleviate your symptoms and bring restful sleep back to your nights


Waking up with severe shoulder pain after sleeping is undoubtedly an unpleasant experience. If you’re wondering, how can I stop my shoulders from hurting at night, we have highlighted a couple of quick tips below.

  1. Shoulder pain from sleeping wrong can be corrected by switching sleep positions and upgrading your mattress to a more pressure relieving alternative. 
  2. Sleep on your opposite side with a pillow between your knees and a quality pillow under your head. 
  3. Ensure your spine is aligned and don’t sleep on the injured shoulder. 
  4. If your shoulder pain is unbearable, see your doctor immediately. 
  5. Dealing with any kind of pain reduces your mobility, concentration, and zaps the joy out of life. 
Besides the tips above, there is help available to alleviate your symptoms and bring restful sleep back to your nights. One of the most successful solutions to relieving shoulder pain while sleeping is upgrading to a modern pressure relief mattress that has been specifically designed to help relieve the symptoms of shoulder pain. At Nolah we specialize in these types of pressure relief mattresses and offer five award-winning mattresses to choose from.